Monday, March 17, 2008

Philosophers' Carnival #65

Hi, and welcome to the 65th edition of the Philosophers' Carnival - a fortnightly roundup of some of the best philosophical blog posts from around the web. I've narrowed the abundance of submissions down to just twelve of my favourites. Enjoy!

Moral and Political Philosophy

Avery Archer discusses McDowell On Virtue. Can one plausibly maintain that 'virtue is knowledge' -- a matter of moral perception -- or does this imply that non-virtue is merely a matter of ignorance and hence involuntary?

Justin at Show-Me The Argument argues that anti-gay attitudes are sexist. There's some lively debate in the comments section.

Zombat relates consciousness to moral status and moral agency. Do phenomenal zombies have moral status? If not, could they be moral agents nonetheless?

Roman Altshuler argues that "Kant’s claim that we act on maxims that we adopt is not an empirical thesis, and that we cannot take it as such without lobotomizing his moral philosophy."

Let me recommend Harry Brighouse's Crooked Timber post on the ethics of voting, which touches on broader issues of coercion and obligation.

Mind and Language

Gary Williams discusses the classic problem of perception: "Am I merely perceiving representations, or ideas, in my head, or am I really looking at the external world?" He advocates James Gibson's solution: that we perceive the 'ambient optic array' of light bouncing about our immediate environment.

Kenny Pearce presents Berkeley's Theory of Reference and the Critique of Matter, explaining why semantic holism ("some symbols may not correspond to anything at all, but gain meaning by being part of the system") is no defence against the anti-materialist objection that we have no grip on "the idea of 'material stuff' abstracted away from any particular qualities a particular object might have."


David Gawthorne defends the neo-Meinongian, anti-Quinean view that we can quantify over non-existent things. Responding to Lewis' objection that this is really just the view that every conceivable thing exists, Gawthorne argues that such philosophers have lost their grip on the pre-theoretic notion of existence that we really care about. (I have some sympathy for such concerns...)

Jason Zarri hopes to deflate debates by assigning a different term to each view: knowledge1, knowledge2, etc., so that the disputants are seen to be simply talking past each other. It's an interesting question just when this sort of move is legitimate.

Over in Platonic Heaven, we find a discussion of the abstract/concrete distinction. In particular, Joongol Kim objects to the analysis: "an entity is concrete iff it belongs to an ontic category to which belongs something that has spatial or temporal parts."

Andrew Cullison offers some objections to the view that "material objects just are regions of space."

Finally, Andrew Bacon has a great post on counterparts and actuality, defusing Delia Graff Fara's objections to counterpart theory by subtly clarifying how we should interpret the actuality operator on the assumption that a single possible world can represent multiple possibilities. Highly recommended!

Concluding Remarks

That's it for this edition of the Philosophers' Carnival, I hope you enjoyed it. While you're here at Philosophy, et cetera, feel free to have a look around and join in any of the discussions that interest you.

N.B. Academics are especially invited to consider my proposed online draft-sharing and feedback system and vote in the sidebar poll, so that I can gauge the level of interest for such a project. Thanks!


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